The Quiet Unquiet
Sinking into the exquisite sounds of Warpaint
by Molly Templeton
Shifting, mercurial, affecting, sinister, rumbling, alluring, ominous, swirling, immersive, subtle, slinky, sneaky ã Warpaints debut full-length album, The Fool, calls up giddy adjectives, sentence fragments and swaying submissiveness, not clear-headed criticism. Its a record for sinking into, for experiencing on headphones that block out the rhythms of ordinary life. The quartets earlier release, the Exquisite Corpse EP, was a tease, a too-short set of polished but not yet shiny tracks that peaked at “Billie Holiday” and crested before a listener was ready for it to be over.
The Fool is something else. The L.A.-based quartet ã two members of which, Im obliged to mention, are originally from Eugene ã had been through multiple drummers before finding Stella Mozgawa, who youd never guess just became a steady member of the band as they finished demos for The Fool. Cohesive and compelling, the record sounds like the work of a band that knows each other backwards and forwards, like they could pick up at any point in any song without missing a beat or a breath. Vocals overlap and repeat, and lyrics turn from promise to portent without the faintest shift in the singers tone. Its disconcerting and promising, the way Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal, who both sing and play guitar, weave a net of harmony and traded lines ãa net that could catch you safely as quickly as it could tangle you right up. “Now Ive got you in the undertow,” they promise on “Undertow,” the records first single. “Why you wanna blame me for your troubles? You better learn your lesson yourself / Nobody ever has to find out whats in my mind tonight,” the song continues as a quietly insistent bass line builds and pulses, incredibly precise and impossibly flowing.
Warpaints songs crossbreed angular, laser-cut percussion and guitar lines with subtle bass and drawn-out, sweet-voiced sentiments that ring like gentle threats. Theyre going to keep you, whether you like it or not. “Dont you call anybody else baby / •cause Im your baby still,” Kokal sings on the quiet, unnerving “Baby,” a lament, a plea and a promise. Her voice echoes over an acoustic guitar thats a dramatic change from the rest of the record, where the comparisons are less clean-and-simple singer-songwriter than Britpop, shoegazer or post-punk: you might hear the atmospherics of the Cure, the moody darkness of Joy Division, the textures of a handful of 4AD bands, from early Lush to Blonde Redhead.
Live, Warpaint is transfixing and confusing: Wheres the time go? Which song is this? How many have they played? What happened? The songs uncoil and hang in the air, resonating with a peculiar certainty. But its not the introspective experience the beckoning guitars and aching vocals might suggest; instead, its muscular and confident, all that quiet building richly behind the bands cheery, effortless stage presence. A strange chemistry, a sense that theres something going on behind and beneath the music, makes the experience unusually spellbinding.
“What did you whisper in my ear? What was the answer you wanted to find out?” Wayman cries on “Shadow,” a dynamic tease of a song with more questions than answers. “I adore your face,” one of them repeats on “Majesty,” spare and spacey, with a synth that bubbles up through the quiet, later to be joined by rich piano and that insistent, assertive percussion. “Could it be that you are my majesty?” Somewhere in the lyrics theres a story about getting what you wanted, only to find you dont want it anymore. But the song is anything but wallowing; the vocals are matter-of-fact, distant and cool, and everything simmers and shifts, Mozgawas drums taking center stage as the singers repeat, “You couldve been my king.” Warpaint doesnt need a goddamn king.
Warpaint, PVT, Yeltsin and Family Band. Thursday, March 17, 8 pm « WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door.